Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books and is being hosted all this month by Diary Of An Eccentric.
I returned home from a week on the road to find two new books on the kitchen counter. Books I hadn't ordered but found intriguing nonetheless. My husband heard about these on NPR while I was gone, thought we both would like them, and voilà...new books. One of my brothers also sent me a book he just finished and thought I would like. My poor TBR shelf!
If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate Hisotry of the Home, by Lucy Worsley
Why did the flushing toilet take two centuries to catch on? Why did Samuel Pepys never give his mistresses an orgasm? Why did medieval people sleep sitting up? When were the two "dirty centuries"? Why did gas lighting cause Victorian ladies to faint? Why, for centuries, did people fear fruit? All these questions will be answered in this juicy, smelly, and truly intimate history of home life. Lucy Worsley takes us through the bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen, covering the architectural history of each room, but concentrating on what people actually did in bed, in the bath, at the table, and at the stove. From sauce-stirring to breast-feeding, teeth-cleaning to masturbation, getting dressed to getting married, this book will make you see your home with new eyes.
Very much in the same vein as Bill Bryson's, At Home, which I really enjoyed, Worsley is chief curator at Historic Royal Palaces, an organization that looks after Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, et al. Need I say more? This is sure to be a terrific book.
Empires, Nations & Families: A Hisotry of the North American West, 1800-1860, by Anne F. Hyde
To most people living in the West, the Louisiana Purchase made little difference: the United States was just another imperial overlord to be assessed and manipulated. This was not, as Empires, Nations, and Families makes clear, virgin wilderness discovered by virtuous Anglo entrepreneurs. Rather, the United States was a newcomer in a place already complicated by vying empires. This book documents the broad family associations that crossed national and ethnic lines and that, along with the river systems of the trans-Mississippi West, formed the basis for a global trade in furs that had operated for hundreds of years before the land became part of the United States.
Empires, Nations, and Families shows how the world of river and maritime trade effectively shifted political power away from military and diplomatic circles into the hands of local people. Tracing family stories from the Canadian North to the Spanish and Mexican borderlands and from the Pacific Coast to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, Anne F. Hyde’s narrative moves from the earliest years of the Indian trade to the Mexican War and the gold rush era. Her work reveals how, in the 1850s, immigrants to these newest regions of the United States violently wrested control from Native and other powers, and how conquest and competing demands for land and resources brought about a volatile frontier culture—not at all the peace and prosperity that the new power had promised.
After reading and loving Undaunted Courage, about Meriwether Lewis and the Corps of Discovery, I'm eager to find the time to read this book, which sounds fascinating. I like the idea of tracing families and how they shaped the West.
The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century, by Ian Mortimer
The past is a foreign country. This is your guidebook. A time machine has just transported you back into the fourteenth century. What do you see? How do you dress? How do you earn a living and how much are you paid? What sort of food will you be offered by a peasant or a monk or a lord? And more important, where will you stay? The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England is not your typical look at a historical period. This radical new approach shows us that the past is not just something to be studied; it is also something to be lived.
Through the use of daily chronicles, letters, household accounts, and poems of the day, Mortimer transports you back in time, providing answers to questions typically ignored by traditional historians. You will learn how to greet people on the street, what to use as toilet paper, why a physician might want to taste your blood, and how to know whether you are coming down with leprosy.
Since I am still hopeful that time travel is possible, I plan to read this in the same way that I have been reading my Frommer's guide to Washington D.C., which I am visiting this week. You cannot be too prepared!